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Supporters sink their teeth into Westminster dog park proposal

With a little luck and some donations, Carroll County dogs may soon have their day, as plans are in works for the county's first off-leash dog park.

Supporters of the park — both four- and two-legged varieties — will be at the Carroll County Pet Expo on June 16, at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, hoping to drum up interest, and money, to turn plans for the Westminster park into a reality.

"We have given pamphlets out around different animal places and at various veterinarians," said Laurie Walters of Westminster, one of the key proponents of the park. "We will also be at the Pet Expo."

Earlier this year, the Board of County Commissioners agreed to set aside land for a dog park, and selected Bennett Cerf Park, located off Route 27 in Westminster to be the spot. While the town of Mount Airy has its own dog park, the Bennett Cerf location is the first county-owned dog park.

"We're very excited to have a dog park coming to Carroll County," said Jeff Degitz, administrator of Carroll County's Department of Recreation and Parks. "We have had many requests over the years."

"We feel it is a good location," Degitz said.. "There are no neighbors, and a walking trail goes through the park. We envision the incorporation of those two together."

To be located on what once was the park's tennis courts, which were removed last year, the dog park will measure close to an acre in size.

Walters first approached the City of Westminster in 1997 about creating a dog park. While the city was in favor of the idea, finding a location proved to be difficult, she said.

"There had to be room and it had to be convenient for people," Walters said. "And it couldn't be in neighbors' back yards."

The county's location of Bennett Cerf, which is across the street from the Random House Publishing Co. along Route 27, resolves those issues.

But it comes with a catch — though the county is providing the space, it will be up to Walters and other volunteers to buy equipment for the park and maintain it.

It will cost about $15,000 to get the park ready to open, Walters said. Funds will be used to create a new surface of turf grass and stone dust for the field and to build a strong, 4- to 5-foot tall chain link fence around the area. A double-gated entry is also needed to insure no dogs get loose, Walters said.

"It will be a 'bare bones' dog park," Walters said. "There will be a fence and a way to get to the area. We won't have, at the beginning, benches or running water."

Once the park is opened, it will be a "membership park," Walters said, with members paying a yearly fee for access. The fee, which Walters estimates will be around $30, would be used for maintenance purposes.

Before becoming a member, all dogs must show proof of having a license and updated shots.

Walters emphasized that the park will be designed with dogs in mind, not children.

"Children under the age of 12 will not be allowed in the dog park," Walters said.

"It is not a place for children to play, but for dogs to play," she said. "If you are supervising your children, you're not supervising your dog."

"If your dog likes to be out running and playing, this is for them," Walters said of the park. "Dogs can run freely, get together with others dogs ... and become better socialized."

In May, members of the Carroll Kennel Club approved a pledge to match donations up to $7,500 through the end of 2012 year, Walters said.

Now, she and others are organizing various events to raise money, from buying bricks to organizing shopping days at Bowman's Feed store.

Dogs and their owners will all reap the benefits of the dog park, Walters said.

"People enjoy the benefits as much as the dogs," Walters said. "People can reach out and become friends, expanding their friendship bases and making the community stronger."

Supporters of the Bennett Cerf Dog Park project will be at the Pet Expo on Saturday, June 16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, 706 Agriculture Center Drive, Westminster. People who would like to donate to the project may write to Bennett Cerf Dog Park, Carroll County Recreation and Parks, 300 S. Center Street, Westminster, MD 21157. A brochure regarding the park is online at the department's website, at ccrec@ccg.carr.org. For more details on the project, call the department at 410-386-2103.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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